by Kinkini Chakravarty, Rural Health Care Foundation (RHCF)
Lack of Medical facilities in the vicinity of her neighborhood made the treatment almost inaccessible to her. She was unable to travel far as that would lead to a sacrifice of one day wage which she could not afford
Sanita Bibi , age 40, has a family of 6 members to feed. She is the sole bread earner in her family who travels 10 km to and from her workplace, everyday. She works in a bidi making factory for the last 4 years , ever since her husband passed away. Lately she was suffering from low eyesight and the condition was deteriorating with each passing day. Lack of Medical facilities in the vicinity of her neighborhood made the treatment almost inaccessible to her. She was unable to travel far as that would lead to a sacrifice of one day wage which she could not afford. At this juncture, she came to know about the primary health care centres set up by Rural Health Care Foundation (RHCF) at the vicinity, where she could be diagnosed and receive treatment at a nominal amount of Rs. 60 (less than $1) only and weeklong supply of medicines, free of cost and a pair of spectacles free of costs as was funded by some anonymous funder through Give India from USA. When Sanita Bibi visited RHCF’s Namkhana centre, she received immediate medical attention which came as a surprise to her. Being a member of the deprived and underserved community she was habituated to insensible, negligent and callous behavior of the doctors who she encountered previously. Unlike less qualified local doctors, the doctor at RHCF treated her with great care. The doctor not only advised on the prescribed medicines but also suggested her about basic sanitation and hygiene, which in turn would improve the quality of her living as well.
Like Sanita bibi, thousands of patients are getting benefitted by the basic healthcare offered by a chain of primary health centres established by RHCF, in the remotest villages of West Bengal.
The centres offer high quality health services at the most affordable cost to the low income group, rural population residing in the densely populated remote villages of West Bengal, India. Currently RHCF has 16 primary health centres (PHCs) spread across 8 districts of West Bengal including Kolkata. They are at Nadia, Bardhaman, North 24 Pargana and South 24 Pargana, Birbhum, and Hooghly.
RURAL HEALTH SCENARIO
Basic health care should be the immediate focus, since many rural places are devoid of any basic medical assistance within the vicinity. State government run medical facilities in these areas are practically dysfunctional due to limited medical resources, substandard equipments, low supply of medicines, lack of qualified and dedicated human resources and gross negligence in dealing with the patients. Though at various levels Government has come up with programs and policies but fell short of proper implementation. Hence in many places state run medical facilities are present only on papers but not in practice. Frequent mass health care awareness programs and medical camps should be organized. Mobile clinic should be launched to make the primary health care reach to the doorsteps of the poor.
“PHCs in rural India are short of more than 3000 doctors”
Rural population need to be educated about basic sanitation , health , nutrition and hygiene and have to be encouraged to visit doctors in order to address any health related issues. Timely treatment and intake of medicine will decrease the infant mortality rate and maternal deaths. Attempts should be taken to develop the quality of living for a healthy future.
PHCs in rural India are short of more than 3000 doctors, with the shortage being 200% over the last 10 years,
according to an analysis by India Spend. Lack of public medical professionals leads people to travel to far flung places and in the process compromise one day earning. Beside, private medical services are expensive in nature thereby making it practically unavailable to the rural poor. Government should make attempts to increase manpower in public hospitals.
Women, children and elderly people are the most vulnerable among all. Majority people from the rural community are either farmers, peasants, daily wage earners or contract laborers . When the male folks go out to earn money, the women and the children are left behind with meager money to survive on. Health related issues are neglected out of the fear of spending. In many cases visit to doctors only happens when the matter is escalated to a great level. Hence focus should be related to Child and Women health and nutrition.
JOURNEY TO SUCCESS
The initiative taken by two brothers , Late Arun Nevatia and Anant Nevatia to enable basic health care services reach the doorstep of poor have been appreciated by various quarters , time and again. It is due to their farsightedness that the rural healthcare in Bengal in scaling new heights.
“Private medical services are expensive in nature thereby making it practically unavailable to the rural poor.”
The inspiration behind such initiative was dated back to the days when Arun was diagnosed with Hodgekin’s Disease in 1975. He was 10 that time and since then he suffered through 3 relapses and finally was diagnose with Leukemia in 2008. His regular visit to the hospital coupled with expensive treatment, chemotherapy and medicines led to the realization of the true condition of healthcare sector prevalent in Bengal. In the era of expensive treatment, the brothers understood the predicament of the poor people who often are unable to afford quality treatment. It was this realization which led to the opening up of the first health care centres at Mayapur in Nadia district of West Bengal, in 2007.
Behind the success story today, goes a history of hard work, sacrifices, dedication and perseverance. In order to serve the underprivileged, both the brothers left their lucrative careers of Real Estate. They embarked into an unpredictable, unforeseen journey of philanthropy which very few from their fraternity, would pursue. Undeterred by the dirty politics played by the local quacks and private practitioners, RHCF was successful in building trust among people and serving them better. In no time, the centre witnessed heavy footfall with remarkable outcomes.
The initiative which started as a one-day clinic concept of eye care, dentistry and general medicine, soon became a full-fledged clinic running 6 days a week .All at a negligible cost , within the reach of the poor community. The exemplary services provided by the Mayapur Centre had to be replicated in other parts of Bengal. The Centres were built up in a self sustenance model which if implemented as planned, could be run without any external aid or donation. Harvard School of Business published a Research Case Study on RHCF in 2015 followed by another publication by NUS Singapore in 2016.
IMPACT SO FAR
Till February 2017, 1529568 patients have been treated in the 16 primary health care centres. Besides catering to varied basic healthcare problems, our centres arrange cataract surgeries in association with Rotary Eye Hospitals. 9493 Successful eye surgeries, 13535 blood sugar testing and 501 Cleft lip/palate surgeries for children have been conducted free of cost in association with renowned hospitals and clinics. RHCF is also involved with providing spectacles at extremely subsidized rates. Till date, 35514 spectacles have been distributed among needy patients.
Furthermore, to support the poor, needy and physically challenged patients, about 150 Wheelchairs have been distributed, along with 2000 blankets.
Proximity of a primary health centre in the remotest villages would also mean people do not have to travel to far flung places to avail the basic health care facilities and also the money they would spend in travelling could now be utilized towards educating their children and generating nutrition for the family.
Each centre offers weeklong supply of medicines, free of cost. The worth of the medicine would amount to Rs. 300-350, if they are to purchase from the market. 10 % of the visiting patients who cannot afford to pay Rs. 60 are treated, free of cost.
Further, the centre would garner employment opportunities to the local people residing nearby especially to women who have limited job opportunities otherwise. They can now be employed by the centres as the support staff taking care of the day to day medical stock and ensuring proper distribution of the same to the patients.
The journey is yet to reach its crescendo. RHCF is also expecting to reach out to hundreds and thousands of needy patients who require affordable healthcare.
“Each centre offers weeklong supply of medicines, free of cost. The worth of the medicine would amount to Rs. 300-350, if they are to purchase from the market. 10 % of the visiting patients who cannot afford to pay Rs. 60 are treated, free of cost.”
Mobile van delivering treatment at the doorstep of the poor is also envisioned, which would save 80% out of pocket expenses (including traveling and medicinal cost). Centres are getting revamped with the purchase of new and medical equipment. Research is also been conducted to identify new places to open up new centres. It is only a matter of time now, when RHCF would spread its wings to other parts of the country and be a name to reckon with in the field of Medical Philanthropy.